When community assets are at risk because of a failure of government, and someone from the private sector takes the initiative to help, that act reveals the goodness of the man at its highest level.
We are referring to Robert Gioia, president of the John R. Oishei Foundation, and his offer of $400,000 to help the smaller culturals that the county, to date, has refused to fund. There is even a risk that they would perish, which would be a significant loss to Western New York.
On the other hand, when an elected official, in a leadership position, publicly berates a private giver, we have an example of both a lack of gratitude and poor judgment. We are referring to Erie County Legislature Chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams, who displayed very bad manners in severely criticizing Gioia at a public meeting Monday. Her problem: Gioia should have spoken to her first.
It was the chairwoman's job to use her political skills to save the culturals. So far, she had not accomplished that. Gioia did, but because of Miller-Williams' convoluted thinking, he had his head handed to him. No good deed goes unpunished.
Gioia could have responded in a petty way, and taken back his offer of $400,000. He didn't. He recognized Miller-Williams' inability to deal with the culturals' problem and said the foundation will reroute distribution of the $400,000 in a manner that will be appreciated.
We don't expect the Legislature to operate without its contentious moments, but county taxpayers should be able to count on its members to be courteous to guests, particularly those bearing gifts.
We also believe that, while County Executive Chris Collins has done an exemplary job in guarding county finances, he also is responsible for the well-being of the cultural community, which adds much to the quality of life in Western New York. He became the culturals' steward when he took office; they deserve better handling.
If Miller-Williams wants to do it herself, now is the time to meet with Collins and get this problem "set straight" for the benefit of the community. But the next time someone comes with money in hand, the chairwoman should bepolite.